Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press Corps.
Thank you for being here today to cover the announcement of key decisions made at the fifth meeting of Cabinet held yesterday Tuesday 28th March 2023.
Ni sa Bula Vina’a, Namaste and a very Good Afternoon to everyone tuning in via livestream, television or facebook.
Welcome to this continuing series of Post Cabinet press conference which Coalition Government committed to upon assuming office, to announce decisions reached by Cabinet to the people of Fiji.
The decisions include the following:
1.Bill to repeal the Media Industry Development Act 2010
Cabinet approved the tabling of a Bill to repeal the Media Industry Development Act 2010 in Parliament.
The Bill will repeal the Media Industry Development Act 2010 as a whole.
The decision is pursuant to the People’s Coalition Government’s commitment to the growth and development of a strong and independent news media in the country.
It has been said that “Media Freedom and Freedom of Expression is the oxygen of democracy”
These fundamental freedoms are integral to enable the people to hold their Government accountable.
I am proud to stand here today to make this announcement, which was key to our electoral platform, and a demand that I heard echoed in all parts of the country that I visited.
2. Review Of The Legal Practitioners Act 2009
Cabinet approved the review of the Legal Practitioners Act 2009.
The current Act was promulgated in 2009, replacing the Legal Practitioners Act 1997 which is a framework to regulate the legal profession and the practice of law in Fiji.
The current law is considered onerous for lawyers in Fiji, and lacking in some instances.
There is a need for modernisation of the law, for example to update the right to practice requirement, as well as consider emerging areas of the law.
A holistic review of the Act will facilitate more effective regulation of the legal profession, and safeguard the independence of the profession.
The review will also ensure that our law is aligned to international best practices to enhance the professional standards of legal practitioners.
3. Grant Agreement between The Institute Louis Malarde And The Fiji Centre For Disease Control
Cabinet approved an Agreement with the Government of French Polynesia to strengthen arbovirus diagnostic, surveillance and research capabilities within the Fiji Centre for Disease Control (Fiji CDC).
Arboviruses are viruses transmitted by insects, for example mosquitoes who spread dengue fever.
The project, known as Fiji SHARE Project, stands for the Surveillance of Human Arboviruses at Risk of causing Epidemics in the Pacific.
The project will be jointly implemented by the Fiji CDC and the Institute Louis Malarde (ILM), which is a research and public health institute under the responsibility of the Ministry of Health of French Polynesia.
This Project is focused on the progressive transfer of technical expertise and research experience from the ILM to the Fiji National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL) at the Fiji CDC.
ILM and our CDC have collaborated for more than 10 years, and this support will further strengthen the role of the Fiji CDC in the region.
4. Informal Settlement Upgrade Programme: Lot Allocation Policy
Cabinet approved the new Informal Settlement Upgrade Programme (ISUP) Lot Allocation Policy.
The Policy will facilitate the issuance of long term tenure leases of 99 years for three settlements comprising 451 households namely Ledrusasa (Nadi), Cuvu and Waidamudamu (near Koronivia).
The Policy has taken into consideration the significant changes in informal settlements across the nation. A few key areas that the policy addresses include:
– eligibility for lots,
– price of lots,
– Government subsidy and
– restriction on the sale and transfer of allocated lots.
To be eligible,
– the applicant must have resided in the settlement when the Ministry conducted the socio-economic survey;
– applicant must not have previously or currently owned any other property at the time of the lodging their application; and
– be a Fiji Citizen of above 18 years old.
The New Policy will use the current market value of upgraded lots taking into consideration the infrastructural capital works carried out. This ensures adequate reflection of development costs that will determine the appropriate level of subsidy for the lot allocation price.
The recommended subsidy under the New Policy assists the lowest income earner ranges but the subsidy decreases as the income range increases.
In addition the New Policy places restrictions on the sale and transfer of lots by means of a caveat.
However, the Ministry of Housing may provide due consideration to genuine cases such as migration and will ensure that refund of the total subsidy is made from the sale.
5. Development Of A National TVET (Technical And Vocational Education And Training) Policy
Cabinet approved the development of a National Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) policy.
TVET is a critical component of the Government’s objective to provide learners with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values needed for work and for life, including lifelong learning skills and entrepreneurial skills for a career pathway.
The development of the Policy will be spearheaded by the Ministry of Education in consultation with all stakeholders.
6. Government Grant For Itaukei Land Development
Cabinet agreed to continue the provision of funding for the Government Grant for iTaukei Land Development (Grant) initiative.
I acknowledge the previous Government in establishing this Grant in 2015 to assist iTaukei landowners in the development of their lands particularly in meeting the costs of connecting utilities such as electricity, water and roads on the proposed development area.
Through this Grant, resources are allocated to support landowners with complete land development packages including:
– clearing and leveling the ground,
– subdivision of the land,
– ensuring connectivity to all utility services including electricity, water, and
– construction of paved roads which are climate resilient.
Since 2015, ten (10) projects have been approved, of which three had been completed and leases handed over to the respective landowners in 2022 while seven are still in progress.
7. Agreement for a Feasibility Study for the Proposed Implementation of Solar Mini Grid Sites in 75 rural and remote communities
Cabinet approved a tripartite arrangement between the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) and Arizona State University (ASU) funded aid grant for a feasibility study to be carried out in 75 rural and remote community sites for solar mini-grid implementation.
The US Trade and Development Agency will provide grant financing of USD $750,000 for the Feasibility Study.
This project will support the design of Phase 3 of the Fiji Rural Electrification Fund (FREF).
The Fiji Rural Electrification Fund (FREF) is a special purpose entity of the Government of Fiji in rolling out renewable energy initiatives in our rural and remote communities.
The initiative was borne out of Fiji’s Presidency at the 23rd Conference of the Parties held in Germany in 2017 and its core mandate is to electrify the 4% of the nation that is yet to access electricity.
8. Establishment Of The Fiji National Emergency Response Team Mechanism
Cabinet approved the establishment of a National Emergency Response Team (NERT) Mechanism.
The NERT mechanism will facilitate the rapid deployment of an emergency response team inside and outside of Fiji.
It will equip the team with standardised tools and methodologies to ensure agencies’ interoperability and enhance their capacity to respond to a disaster.
The National Disaster Management Office will coordinate the development of the NERT mechanism.
9. Partnership Between The Ministry Of Rural And Maritime Development And The UNDP
Cabinet endorsed an amendment to the Letter of Agreement with the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) on the implementation of the Governance for Resilient Development in the Pacific Project (Gov4Res Project) within the Ministry.
The Amendment is to support the formulation of a Rural Development Policy.
The development of the Policy is crucial to national governance given the Ministry’s significant role in coordinating rural development and disaster management at both national and sub-national levels.
10. Support for Pacific Polytech
Cabinet approved a joint proposal from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Finance to explore various options to support Pacific Polytech.
Fiji is facing constraints in terms of availability of technical skills for its industry and public sectors.
Unfortunately, the number of TVET graduates have declined consistently in Fiji during the last 5-6 years.
As as such, there is a need to strengthen the technical, vocational education and training sector.
Submissions from Pacific Polytech show that it has acquired four campuses in Tavua, Lautoka, Suva and Nausori. It intends to establish campuses around the country.